Vanderbilt opens its season on Thursday against Temple in Nashville. VandyMania.com's Don Yates compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.
VANDERBILT PASSING OFFENSE
TEMPLE PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Vanderbilt will go to a new west coast style offense in 2014 but look for the Commodores to try and assert the running game against the Owls. Still, the 'Dores must be able to throw in order to keep opposing defenses honest. Patton Robinette
won a hard fought battle for the starting quarterback position. Last season he wasn't Joe Montana but he did help lead the team to some of its biggest wins ever. Robinette completed 46 of 88 passes for 642 yards and four scores. His two top targets should be Trey Wilkins
and Jordan Cunningham
(15 catches in '13) who is the team's top returning receiver from last season.
Temple cornerback Anthony Robey
is a candidate for the Jim Thorpe award and is the most experienced player in the Owl secondary. Last season he had 49 tackles including two for losses and one interception. Junior defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis
and middle linebacker Nate Smith
each had three sacks last season to co-lead the team.
VANDERBILT RUSHING OFFENSE
TEMPLE RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: A currently banged up Jerron Seymour
gained 716 yards on 164 attempts in running for 14 touchdowns. Look for Brian Kimbrow
or Ralph Webb to pick up his slack. Webb played well in the spring and it's paying off for him in the opener. Vandy has a veteran offensive line, led by center Joe Townsend, to pave the way for whoever is running the ball.
The Owls gave up just over 175 yards per game on the ground last season. Temple returns its top tackler from a year ago in linebacker Tyler Matakevich
who had 137 stops last season. The second stop leader, linebacker Nate Smith (66 tackles), also returns.
TEMPLE PASSING OFFENSE
VANDERBILT PASSING DEFENSE
Temple has a solid quarterback in P.J. Walker
. Last season as a freshman he completed 152 of 250 passes for 2,084 yards, 20 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick
, who caught 38 passes last season, returns for his senior season as does junior John Christopher
who made 31 catches. Those two were the top two receivers for the Owls last season. Temple returns just one starter on its offensive line.
Vanderbilt ranked 23rd nationally in passing defense last season but took heavy losses in the secondary following the season. That secondary may not miss a beat but it has yet to be tested. Sophomore cornerback Torren McGaster
and free safety Andrew Williamson
are the most experienced of a talented group. Cornerback Paris Head
currently leads the 'Dores in interceptions with three, but is listed behind Tre Bell
on the Commodore depth chart. Defensive tackle Adam Butler
and redshirt freshman Jay Woods
could make things unpleasant for the Temple QB and ball carriers.
TEMPLE RUSHING OFFENSE
VANDERBILT RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Senior running back Kenneth Harper
ran for 613 yards and nine touchdowns on 196 carries last season. Sophomore Zaire Williams
gained 533 yards in 2013. Junior center Kyle Friend
(6-2, 305) is the lone returner on the Owl offensive line.
Vanderbilt will employ a similar defense to the Stanford
Cardinal which shut down Oregon's explosive offense two seasons in a row. Former defensive ends (now outside LBs) Stephen Weatherly
and Kyle Woestmann
both have high motors and the ability to make big time hits. Their ability to make the game transition from their old positions will be a key to how the Commodores fortunes in 2014 plays out.
REMARKS: The Vandy staff still has yet to decide on punter. Last season Taylor Hudson
averaged 42.9 yards per punt but was inconsistent. Colby Cooke
finished 2013 with a more polished, 45.1 yard average per boot. Kicker has been a question mark since Carey Spear
left for the NFL. Redshirt freshman Tommy Openshaw
or true freshman Hayden Lekacz will kick for the 'Dores. Speedsters Darrius Sims
and C.J. Duncan
will return punts and kickoffs. Sims shined in that role last season.
Either junior Tyler Mayes
or freshman Austin Jones will kick for the Owls. Temple, like Vandy, has yet to decide on a player for that position. Mayes is also in the hunt for punter job. That responsibility will go to either him or redshirt junior Colby Perry
. Sophomore Khalif Herbin
is slated to return both kickoffs and punts for the Owls. Last season he had no return yardage.
Matt Rhule is entering his second season as head coach at Temple. His coaching file includes time with the New York Giants
. In his first season as head coach Rhule led the Owls to a 2-10 record but played several quality programs including UCF close.
Vanderbilt's Derek Mason
will coach his first game as a head coach on Thursday. In 2012 Mason was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach, after directing a defense that ranks among the best in the nation and finest in Stanford history. Mason, like Rhule, has some NFL coaching experience serving stints with the Vikings, Raiders, Giants and Rams.
REMARKS: Vanderbilt's has improved its homefield advantage over the past few years due to its success. The night late night may create slight disadvantage for Temple. It will be approaching midnight in Philadelphia when the game is in the fourth quarter. Temple is on a 1-0 winning streak in the state of Tennessee. Last season the Owls handled Memphis 41-21 in the season finale. It was Temple's only road win of the season.
Vanderbilt 31, Temple 7.